April 25, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 226
Some Heroes Have Fleas
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City, April 25-- Some heroes don't
speak. They just scratch at fleas between saving lives.
One such hero
is a guy named Sirius.
He is one of
60 million dogs in the United States, but to some, he is the
number one combat canine.
killed in the September 11 World Trade Center disaster.
He died protecting the building from Terrorists. He was
a bomb-sniffing K9 with the Port
Authority Police Department, on duty to sniff all vehicles for
explosives entering the Twin Towers loading dock. Like
so many that day, he perished in an act of Vigilance.
His memorial was
held yesterday at Liberty State Park in New Jersey. Over
100 different K-9 units from throughout the United States attended.
It was a tribute not just to a brave dog, but also a salute
to all the heroes of Nine Eleven who gave their lives in the
line of duty. Sirius was the only dog to die in the holocaust
of the Second Tuesday of September, 2001.
I desperately wanted
to go the memorial, but became aware of it after it had begun
and couldn't reach the location in time to offer my thanks and
to issue my prayers for Sirius. However, I was glad
I remembered to remember him. And I was happy to
know that all the Sentinels of Vigilance who died that day have
a great dog to keep them alert in their eternal search to protect
us all from Terrorism's dark, twisted shadow.
Law enforcement has been
using dogs to help them in many ways. I wanted to know about
the power of a dog's nose. Even though I had many dogs
as pets, I never really understood the depth of their sniffing
ability. So I searched google.com and came up with this
The dog's nose is incredibly
sensitive due to an highly developed olfactory sense.
Dogs can detect some odors at the miniscule concentration of
one part per trillion. The anatomy of the dog's nose sheds
light on why they are so adept at detecting smells.
A dog inhales
or sniffs when smelling to create swirling currents of air inside
the nasal cavity. The odors are carried to the olfactory
cells which detect the smells. Dogs have about 150 million
of these cells compared to humans' 5 million. Dogs also
have a nasal cavity volume 4 times that of ours. The external
part of the dog's nose is bathed in mucus helping to entrap
and detect odors such as the bombs Sirius was trained to detect.
Dogs have 100-150 cilia
per olfactory cell compared to our mere 6-8 cilia per cell.
A cilia is a small hairlike element that lines the nasal cavity.
Whoever created dogs, knew they would come in handy against
* * *
My appreciation for Sirius
has deep roots. I grew up with dogs.
They were my best friends.
Often, my only friends.
I was a lonely child, turned
inward by a feeling of alienation by my parents' lack of interest
in who I was and what I was or what
I could be--a common feeling among many children. It is
the Terror of being a child--to be alone in the presences of
My mother and father were
divorced when I was a baby, and I never accepted my step-father
or felt an integral part of the "new family."
My dogs became my family. They were boxers and slept with me,
played with me and comforted the emptiness I felt inside that
I was a "third wheel" in the family unit, the bastard
child of my mother.
I would train them to do certain
tricks, especially "war dog" tricks like the "combat
crawl." My favorite canine pal, Casey, would crawl
on his belly to my hand signals, roll over, and attack the pant
leg of anyone I chose to sic him on. I would invite
"friends" over to my house to play with him, and tell
them to run and then sic my bodyguard on them. Casey
would rush after them and grab their pant leg and shake them
to the ground. I would pretend they were the "enemy"
and I was a great K-9 solider and my trusty dog and I were heroes,
saving the world from evil.
Quickly, I ran out of friends.
Few enjoyed the dog's slobbering face standing over them, growling
so they couldn't get up once they were down. I never
taught any of my dogs
to bite, just to threaten. If one of my buddies
slept over, my dogs would try and root them out of the bed and
sleep next to me. It made me feel good, knowing I was
loved so jealously, so unconditionally.
As a man, my wife knew
I loved dogs. After we were married and had children,
she got me my "dream dog," a mix between a Siberian
husky and a Malamute. I named him Zonka after watching
Larry Csonka bash through the line in a Super Bowl game.
Zonka became my "man dog." We wrestled
and played, and, since I was traveling frequently in business,
he became my Sentinel of Vigilance guarding my children and
wife when I was away. He was eighty plus-pounds
of tough, macho dog who loved the children and our cats and
would die for us with his last gasp of air.
His death came at low point in
my life. I missed him as one might miss a brother, a soul
mate, a buddy who had been through Hell with you and never left
your side, who put everything in his heart for you first and
who never once asked for anything in return. Well, that's
not true. Occasionally I would put a chocolate chip on
his nose and trained him to
not move until I gave him the command. Then he would toss
his huge snout up and the chocolate chip would fly in the air.
He would leap up and snag it in his powerful jaws. (Warning--I
know it is not good to give dogs chocolate...bad for their heart...but
one chip every now and then was within reason)
Sirius' memorial was not just
a salute to another fallen hero, but a reminder to me of the
linkage between man and dog, woman and dog, children and dog.
I felt the loyalty and trust I experienced between my many dogs
and myself was akin to the feelings those who believe in God
have with their Creator. I was always reversing
the letters of G-O-D in my mind, enjoying the fact they spelled
D-O-G. It was, to me, the definition of unconditional
Sirius' partner must have felt
a great loss when his dog died last September. I
wanted to share in the experience of that feeling at the memorial,
so I did the next best
thing. I searched all the information I could find on
Sirius at Google.com to learn the details of both the love between
the fallen canine hero and his partner, Port Authority Police
Office David Kim, and the events surrounding Sirius' death.
Sirius was a five-year-old
yellow Labrador retriever. He sniffed hundreds of
trucks at the loading platform of the World Trade Center for
bombs each day. He went home with David Kim at night,
and was part of the officer's family as well as his working
When the first plane hit
the building, Officer Kim put Sirius in his cage, told him he'd
be back, and rushed up to help wounded and trapped survivors.
The building collapsed as he was helping others, and he miraculously
escaped death. But his partner, buddy and pal didn't.
On January 22nd rescue
workers found the remains. Officer Kim rushed to
Ground Zero. All the giant equipment was shut down
for a moment of silence as Officer Kim removed the body with
full tribute to the fallen hero. Everyone at the
site saluted as the flag-draped body of Sirius was carried past
the workers, firemen and police.
Yesterday, K-9 units
from all over the country attended the memorial.
Officer Kim was presented with Sirius' metal water bowl, a reminder
of his presence even after death. Thirty-seven Port Authority
Police personnel died during the Terrorist attack, the largest
number of police loss from any single unit in the history of
Officer Lim has a
new dog, a 2-year-old black Labrador retriever named Sprig.
He and his new partner have been reassigned to work as an officer
at the Holland Tunnel, protecting it from potential Terrorist
I thought a lot about
Sirius yesterday. The dog's name comes the brightest
star in the sky second only to our own sun. The star,
Sirius, is called the "dog star" because it is part
of the Orion constellation. It represents Orion's larger
hunting dog constellation forming what astronomers call Canis
Major, the Greater Dog.
Indeed, Sirius was
a star. He even had his picture taken with President Bill
Clinton a few years ago. Sirius was there to insure the President
wasn't vulnerable to any bombs.
To me, Sirius represents
the unconditional love of any animal who becomes bonded with
a human. Animals love with a purity when they are
treated with kindness and respect. They symbolize
the ultimate in affection, loyalty, dedication and courage.
The other day I saw
a small mouthful of a dog yelping and growling at a huge pit
bull, and laughed to myself. The pit bull in one swipe
with its head could have vacuumed the furry ball into its jaws
and crunched it with one bite. Instead, it backed away,
aware the feisty little one would give its life to protect its
owner. Vigilance comes in small packages as well as big
When I look up into
the sky from now on, I'm going to search for the "dog star."
Since I believe the spirits of those who died on September 11
are still alive and well, standing guard over us, reminding
us that it is our duty and responsibility to individually Pledge
ourselves to Vigilance, I will think of Sirius as I gaze upward.
I will see him running around and sniffing and being petted
by the thousands who died that day, guarding the horizons for
signs of Terrorism--the presence of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
When he sniffs these
elements of Terrorism, I want to keep my ears open for his bark,
his warning for me to pull out my Courage, my Conviction and
my Action to defuse the bomb of Terrorism that ticks like a
clock inside all human beings, waiting for the right moment
to explode and cripple us emotionally. Sirius will be
there to remind me to be wary.
I will also think
of all the children who go to bed at night alone, disenfranchised
from their parents, abused, scared of the dark, oppressed because
they do not feel loved the way they want to be loved because
their parents are either too busy or neglectful to recognize
the loneliness of the child's heart. Or, they are carrying
in their hearts a great secret, some fear of others who may
have molested or threatened them, or told them they were ugly
or fat, or no good, and they are afraid to share that with their
I will ask Sirius
to crawl in bed with them; to snuggle up next to them and lay
his head upon their chest to comfort their fears, to let them
know they are loved unconditionally and to listen to their secret
fears so they can sleep in peace.
I know Sirius will
not sleep. He will keep his eyes and ears and his very
special nose alert,
sniffing for the shadows of the night that try and attack a
child's well-being, that drive him or her into a cave of Terror.
But I will sleep.
I will sleep knowing the K-9 Sentinel of Vigilance is protecting
the future of our children.
Note: The following
link will take you to more information on Sirius' memorial:
Go To April 24--Snipers In Bethlehem